Good sound, good story

Sound is a commonly underrated aspect of podcasts that help illicit emotion and reflection in its listeners.

Sounds and music allow a story to smoothly develop using the elements of a good story. The voice of a character provides the listener with a mental image of the character as if they were watching them on a screen instead of just hearing a recording of their voice.

Certain sounds can add to the suspense of a narrative which ties in with how a podcast’s sounds can regulate the emotions of its listeners. Drawn out pauses can often be awkward and tend to interrupt the flow of the narrative.

Podcasts use transition music or sound effects to avoid these pauses in the conversation and to allow time for reflection. If the reflection and main idea of the piece aren’t clearly stated, it’s a good decision to insert music after a meaningful part in the podcast for listeners to use for contemplation.

Sounds aren’t only used to assist in the emotional responses and reflection of listeners, but they can also be used as a sly comedic aspect of an inquiry-based podcast. In Invisibilia’s “True You,” a tough, cold character, Tanya, encounters the voice of X, an innocent young girl in a sundress who seems to have the opposite personality of Tanya.

Before she observes Tanya’s sleep to try and encounter X, Abby Wendle, the narrator of the story, says, “So Tanya set out on a quest, and I tagged along to burrow under her wall of consciousness, or climb over it, or completely break through in order to have an encounter with X.”

Immediately after she says this, the theme song of the show “The X-Files” starts playing until Wendle sort of chuckles and says, “No, not an “X-Files” kind of encounter…” This simple pun isn’t necessarily that funny, but it sheds a little humor on an otherwise dark narrative and allows the listener and narrator to have a little chuckle together.

Casual conversation is another way for the listener and speaker to indirectly relate to one another. If a podcast had a complicated script with a lot of technical language, it wouldn’t have a very diverse or substantial audience base. A conversational tone is an essential aspect of any decent inquiry-based podcast.

Abel describes this conversational tone as the narrator “writing for the ear.” As they write the podcast’s script, they have to think about how they would speak in conversation. Short sentences are a must.

Who would want to listen to someone read a run-on sentence that makes multiple different points? No one. Writing for the ear is so important to the movement of a narrative’s plot so that it feels like the listener might as well be part of the conversation.

Everyone loves a good cult story

Cults and cult-like organizations have always fascinated me from afar. Never having been a part of a “real” cult, they have seemed kind of mystical and entirely foreign.

After talking with my neighbor in our statistics class last semester, who was raised in a Mennonite family, I learned about the religious group “Twelve Tribes” that was located just down the road from her childhood home. Twelve Tribes has a chapter right over in Rutland, VT where they have been caught in a fair amount of legal trouble over child slavery and abuse.

Instead of just harping on why cults are dangerous like everyone else already does, this podcast would revolve around more personal issues and group struggles within the community and would hopefully be able to discover the threatening behavior patterns in it.

The fact that Twelve Tribes, a real cult with a shady past, is in such close proximity to The University of Vermont and the modern world, automatically attracts attention to this topic. In most cases when people think about cults they envision a little village of some sort in the middle of nowhere, completely removed from society.

In this particular case, I would choose to interview my friend from stat class to get a perspective from an outsider who had a small glimpse into their secretive lifestyle. Additionally, getting some sort of inside look into their organization would open the doors for more in-depth questions to be asked—questions that elicit emotion and intrigue from listeners.


Another topic I am thinking of covering is the personal style choices and culture of UVM students on campus. Personally, I feel like UVM is one of the only state universities where students can wear anything they want, and I really mean anything.

The personal fashion statements made on campus and at parties range from balloon pants and a giant ripped hoodie to “casual fruit farmer girl” to thigh-high boots with a faux fur coat and overalls, and on and on.

What makes this topic so interesting is the peculiar reason as to why there is such a culture of expressive freedom at this school. Even if what you’re wearing is definitely absurd, generally no one will say anything and you’ll most likely be more respected because you went out on a limb and did your own thing. This topic stops short from there for me because I’m not really sure where to go with it.

Possibly interviews with students and sociologist/social psychologists would present an interesting story however, there’s very little suspense in that. Comparisons could be made between UVM students’ thoughts and opinions versus those of UCONN or UMass, for example.

The elements of a podcast’s story

In Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire, she describes the importance of a “stake,” or a reason for listeners to become interested in and stay interested in it. Chana Joffe-Walt does this by transporting our listening minds through the three main stages of life in her podcast called, “It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older.” From childhood when we begin learning new things, to old age when we might forget what we knew and must begin to relearn those things in new ways.

The broader story of this podcast has to do with the aging process and the feelings that people tend to have in these certain age groups. The podcast begins with the commonly felt feeling that many (if not all) children and adolescents have — frustration with the phrase “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

The story evolves from there into the next phase of life that is being grown up. Growing up includes dealing with regret–or lack there of–and figuring out how to allocate your time in the best way possible before the next phase starts to creep up on you.

The last chapter of life is a time when you know everything you think you could possibly know, and like many podcasts, this story ends by kind of coming around full circle. It’s common for people to develop memory loss in old age, which tends to leave them in a similar mindset to the one they had in adolescence.

I think Joffe-Walt decided to do a story on the journey through the phases of life and the experiences that go along with it and it’s interesting  such a universal topic that anyone will find intriguing. Everyone gets old and everyone can probably relate to one or all of the chapters of this podcast since they are so broad yet personable.

A suspenseful way to learn

An inquiry-based podcast is a somewhat suspenseful and intriguing way in which people can learn something. Inquiry-based learning refers to how someone actively learns by not just exhibiting a clear route to knowledge, but rather by presenting problems, questions, and situations.
Inquiry-based podcasts also include things like natural pauses, laughing and random “um’s” every now and then to try and keep the segment running smoothly and practices probing interviews in order to develop the story as much as possible.
In the podcast “Father K” on, there were many  times when the editors would purposefully include someone saying “um” or someone sighing in the final cut. This method helps the listener feel as though they are a part of the conversation and that they’re listening to a story as opposed to the six o’clock news. It also emphasizes the natural flow of the podcast and makes it easier to follow.
Often times, adding in a sigh or an “um” just isn’t enough to keep a listener comfortably engaged during an hour long podcast. Music is also a good form of interjection to eliminate the constant talking and other everyday noises heard in a podcast of this nature.
Music may also pose as a time for the listener to briefly reflect on what they have been hearing and perhaps come up with some questions that might be answered in the remainder of the piece. A podcast I listened to on This American Life, “Five Women,” used music to transition from one act to the next. This helped the podcast transition while the story unfolds with greater detail.
Ideas for stories like these, I imagine, can be pitched based off of a small amount of knowledge on a subject (i.e. Father K’s campaign) and then develop further in order to draw attention to the larger themes (in this case xenophobia, politics, racism etc).
Because of this, interviews in an inquiry-based podcast can be a bit probing. At times in “Father K,” the interviewer seemed to be on Khader El-Yateem’s side, while at other times it seemed to me like he was grilling El-Yateem, trying to get him to say something out of his ordinary.

The 2nd Amendment is some b#ll$h*t

Political video remixes are a creative, unique and sometimes humorous approach to presenting an argument or an opinion on a certain topic. It can be rather difficult to know where to start with a remix, considering the plethora of media sources and material that are available for our use.
One argument that I would attempt to advance through my own political remix is the lack of gun control in this country. I realize that many people have already, and will continue to make political remixes about this issue but due to recent events in Florida and my home state of Connecticut, I feel drawn to do this.
As for strategies I’d employ, I would like to incorporate news clips of Donald Trump expressing his thoughts on gun issues in this country while juxtaposing them next to clips of leaders from other developed countries expressing their own (sound) thoughts. I also plan to add videos taken by people on their phones while caught in the midst of a shooting in order to convey a sense of disgust and horror in the viewers of my video.
The reason I’m trying to add a sort-of  shock factor into my political remix is because of my intended audience. Ideally, I’d like for my video to reach those who, for some reason, think that teachers need to be armed and/or that “people kill people” as opposed to “guns kill people.”
I want this video to disturb people just enough so that they might finally be able to realize the true irrelevance of the second amendment and how much reform this country needs. But due to my intended audience, I suppose I’ll have to be weary of offending them with the implied insults this video will hurl at them.

Ronald and Nancy love drugs


Political remix videos can serve many different purposes. Some of them are more lighthearted and funny while others aim to argue a political point that has a much deeper meaning. The videos will generally make some sort of argument regardless of the type of message they send.

The original video comes from 1986 when the former President, Ronald Reagan, and his wife, Nancy, addressed the country on the dangers of certain drugs. Some would consider the Raegan administration’s “War on Drugs” to have been a terrible failure and a waste of time and money. But it was so much more, it helped incarcerate hundreds of thousands of nonviolent offenders that were typically of a lower socioeconomic status. When these nonviolent drug-using offenders were put in jail, they learned how to become a hardened criminal, which set them on a path of destruction that they may have never been exposed to had they never been to prison.

This particular remix was made in 1988 using VCRs and other dated equipment. Cliff Roth, the creator of this video, makes an argument by challenging the failure of the “War on Drugs” that was spearheaded by Nancy Reagan. Roth uses humor to convey a more profound message on this botch of a program. He alters the message of the original video to convey a message that is entirely the opposite of the original. The irony of the video is what makes its argument so strong. Roth cuts the video in certain ways that it makes it look like the Reagans support the use of crack cocaine, marijuana and other illicit drugs, among other things.

Roth used a very effective strategy in order to communicate the main political argument he had. Its effectiveness comes from the order in which the clips were arranged. Although not right at the very beginning, as you watch this video, you will find yourself watching nearly all of its seven minutes. The clips flow together very smoothly and sometimes it can even be hard to tell when the clip was cut because the audio plays so well over the picture.



An Effective Website

A compelling and aesthetically pleasing website can be imperative to an certain individual’s success these days. Graphic designers, for example, showcase their work partly through the design of their website, which pulls a viewer or employer to keep browsing their site.

One commendable example of such a website is that of graphic designer, Julie Bonnemoy. The aesthetics of this website are particularly intriguing, I was immediately captivated by the cartoon hand extending a peace sign that is used to signify that the website is loading. The home page makes you feel like you’re inside of a lava lamp and the compelling phrase it reads gives you the only instruction really necessary for the essentially whole website, “scroll down.”

The way in which the website is designed, makes it so that one of the few things the viewer has to do is scroll. This website is rather user-friendly and straightforward. If you’d like to view her designs, simply click on them as you scroll down, and if you’d like to view her projects, click the project tab! There aren’t many images on this website besides the home page and Bonnemoy’s work, but her designs and the whole scheme of the site work well together to create a unique amalgamation  of art and simplicity.

Research for a Popular Audience

Robert Kunzig and Douglas Emlin both transform seemingly bland research into something much more gripping and fascinating which should enthrall their online readers and expand their audiences. For example, in Kunzig’s Carnivore’s Dilemma, he begins with extremely descriptive language in order to paint a picture in the minds of his readers.
“At Wrangler Feedyard, on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle, night was coming to an end, and 20,000 tons of meat were beginning to stir. The humans who run this city of beef had been up for hours. Steam billowed from the stacks of the feed mill; trucks rumbled down alleys, pouring rivers of steam-flaked corn into nine miles of concrete troughs.” This passage includes numerical facts while at the same time setting the scene and being as descriptive as possible.
By comparing his research to something in our society, Douglas Emlin uses a different method to translate research in The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles. “In that regard, animal arms races are not so dissimilar from the ones in which we humans, sometimes foolhardily, engage.” Here, Emlin compares his research on beetles to a huge issue we deal with in society – the arms race. By doing this he makes his research more relatable to his audience, therefore helping to ensure that his piece would be pleasant to read.

Psychopathy vs. Altruism

The National Geographic feature, “The Science behind Psychopaths and Extreme Altruists,” by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee provides a very in-depth analysis on the workings of the human brain. Pictures of scenes from horrific homicidal tragedies, such as the Las Vegas shooting and the murder of James Byrd, Jr. introduce the feature with an ominous tone. However, the written portion of the piece begins with a story of extreme altruism when Ashley Aldridge risked her life to save a man whose wheelchair was stuck in the tracks of an oncoming train. In his feature, Bhattacharjee seeks to explain why one person may risk their life for a complete stranger while another person could kill twenty children and feel no remorse. In order to answer his question, Bhattacharjee investigates the psychological science behind personality and empathy and calls on experts to explain these phenomena. For example, he explains how Phineas Gage, once a kind man, became irritable and callous after severely damaging his frontal lobe. Additionally, through stories and experts, the author explains how a larger, more active amygdala allows for extreme altruism whereas the opposite is true for a psychopath. Bhattacharjee references the information given to him by scholars and researchers from esteemed universities. This feature was able to deeply answer the question through personal stories and scientific fact. The graphic of the brain and its parts in the article helped to lay out brain functions and provide information for those who were unaware and/or curious. The addition of photographs and descriptions also added a lot of depth and allowed the reader to stop and ponder for a minute or two.